From the Rector: First Sunday of Advent

Liturgical Style

By Cardinal Marini, The Papal Master of Ceremonies for Pope Francis.

2.2. The noble simplicity of love

The Gospels describe the human and concrete gestures of Jesus: he walks, he blesses, he touches, he heals, he mixes saliva and mud, he raises his eyes to heaven, he breaks the bread, he takes the cup. These are the gestures repeated in the celebration of the sacraments. But it was above all on the night of his passion that Jesus taught us the gestures that we too must perform. He is our master of liturgical education. His art consists in setting forth the essential in a few simple things. The meaning of the liturgy is revealed only through simplicity and sobriety. «He always loved those who were his own in the world. When the time came for him to be glorified by you his heavenly Father; he showed the depth of his love. While they were at supper he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples saying […]. In the same way, he took the cup, filled with wine. He gave you thanks, and giving the cup to his disciples, said […] ».[3] What is it that made this act of the Lord so beautiful? The way the room was arranged? The way the table was prepared? Fine table linen? Certainly these things bring out its beauty, like a frame which enhances the beauty of a picture. Yet the real beauty lies in Jesus’ act of redeeming love: «he showed the depth of his love… he took bread». Here lies the beauty of his gesture. Repeating this action of Christ, and recognizing in it her Lord’s love, the Church finds it beautiful. The liturgy’s aesthetic value, its beauty, depends primarily therefore not on art, but on the paschal mystery of love. If art is to collaborate with the liturgy it needs to be evangelized by love. The beauty of a Eucharistic celebration essentially depends not on the beauty of architecture, icons, decoration, songs, vestments, choreography and colors, but above all on the ability to reveal the gesture of love performed by Jesus. Through the gestures, words and prayers of the liturgy we strive to repeat and render visible the gestures, prayers and words of the Lord Jesus. This is what the Lord commanded: «Do this in memory of me».
The style of our liturgy should be simple and austere, as was the style of Jesus. In our celebrations, according to the Council Fathers, we must master of the art of «noble simplicity» (SC 34).
2.3. Gesture, word, space, time and order

In the liturgy gestures are always accompanied by words. The liturgy unfolds, as the Council affirms, per ritus et preces, through rites and prayers illuminated and vivified by the Word (SC 48; 21; 59; 7; 24). However words and gestures involve both time and space. The Word made flesh needed time and space in which to carry out his gestures of salvation. The liturgy is the space Christ needs to reveal himself, the time he takes to tell us about himself.

In the liturgy, however, space and time are subject to rules of order. By its nature the liturgy demands order. Without rubrics, or indications from the Church, there can be no liturgy. This is clearly seen from the earliest liturgical texts. Beauty in the liturgy is also the result of order. The first word in the title of almost all the books produced by the liturgical reform is the Latin word ordo. The order required by the liturgy regards a number of things: time, space, relationship with others; indeed the liturgy demands also personal interior order .
Forty years after the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium we need to ask ourselves: are the rites and gestures which we perform truly gestures of Christ? Is the liturgy we celebrate space given to Christ or is it for ourselves? Is the time dedicated to our liturgy, time in which Christ reveals himself to us, or a time when we talk about ourselves, or simply empty time? Is the liturgy we celebrate, besides being an order, a sequence of rites, also a source of order in our relationships with others? Is it a source of personal interior order?

These questions serve to help us understand not only the essence of the liturgy but also the meaning of the active participation so strongly advocated by the Council.

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